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  • After the Freeze: Real Reforms Toward Fair Federal Pay

    President Barack Obama announced today that he will ask Congress to freeze federal worker pay for the next two years saving $5 billion through 2012. Good for him. This is a welcome acknowledgment on two fronts: 1) that, as Heritage research has definitively shown, federal workers are paid more than their private sector counterparts even after accounting for skills and education; and 2) that our federal budget deficits are driven by a spending, not a revenue, problem.

    But while President Obama should be congratulated for this small step toward fiscal sanity, a federal pay freeze is not enough and far more than $5 billion could be saved be reforming federal worker pay. Heritage Foundation Senior Labor Analyst James Sherk writes:

    Federal employees earn between 30 percent and 40 percent more than equivalently skilled private-sector workers. This represents costly forced sacrifices by lower-earning American taxpayers. … [M]ost federal compensation is not a contractual obligation and Congress can reduce it in those positions which are overcompensated. If Congress reduced this federal pay to market rates this would save taxpayers about $47 billion a year— more than eliminating the entire Department of Commerce, Department of the Interior, or Department of Energy. It would be enough to fully offset the cost of patching the alternative minimum tax in 2012.

    Instead of just a pay freeze, Sherk recommends:

    • Abolish the General Schedule and implement performance-based pay. Congress should replace the General Schedule with pay-for-performance systems tied to market compensation. The Office of Personnel Management should set broad pay bands for each occupation and region of the country with managerial discretion to award raises for good performance, subject to budget limitations. OPM should adjust these pay bands up or down based on qualified applicant-to-position ratios and quit rates. This would align federal pay with market rates while allowing high-performing federal workers to earn what their skills merit.
    • Hire More Private Contractors. Many jobs performed by federal employees are not inherently governmental tasks and can be performed by private-sector workers. However, federal regulations deter government agencies from hiring private contractors for this work. Congress should eliminate these regulations and instead require the federal bureaucracy to compete on cost and quality with private-sector workers to perform non-inherently governmental tasks. This would expose federal employees to the same market competition that private-sector workers face each day. This competitive pressure would force federal agencies to reduce compensation to market rates in order to keep work in-house. To the extent that more work was contracted out, it would also create more jobs for private-sector workers.
    • Reduce Federal Benefits. Congress should reduce the generosity of its benefits to market rates. Paid leave should be reduced to comparable levels at private corporations. Congress should re-examine the utility of the existing defined-benefit plans and consider moving federal workers to a fully portable and funded 401(k)-style system instead.
    • End Dismissal Restrictions. Federal workers who have passed their probationary period can only be fired with great difficulty. As a result, some federal workers slack off knowing they will not lose their jobs. Congress should allow government managers the same discretion to remove poor performers as that of private managers.
    Posted in Economics [slideshow_deploy]

    50 Responses to After the Freeze: Real Reforms Toward Fair Federal Pay

    1. don california says:

      I work for the gov. I wish i was getting paid 30 to 40% more than the a person on the outside. As for the pay for performance, that was tried and didn't work. Where i work we went from 400 employees to 80. We now hire contractors to do the work which cost more, about 30% more that includes retirement. Gov employees don't get paid pervailing wages where contractors do plus their benitfits. I don't know where these guys get their facts.

    2. Brinker says:

      Rather than giving bureaucrats endless opportunities to game the system by basing the discussion on the foundation of equivalent skills, education, experience or the like why not begin by acknowledging the fact that government is no more important than the private sector which supports it and legislate accordingly? Call it the "Private Sector Pay Parity Act" and with it force federal mean and median compensation (to include all pay, bonuses, benefits, vacation, holidays, etc.) to no more than equal mean and median private sector compensation. Perhaps a bit less to compensate for job security at the federal level that is not enjoyed by the vast majority of those toiling in the private sector.

      It's worth noting that this might, finally, also give incentive to some in the federal government to think twice before taking action harmful to the private sector. No arrangement is sustainable over the long term unless the intersts of the parties are well aligned and for decades now the intersts of government and those of the private sector have been nearly diametrically opposed.

    3. Darrell says:

      I hate to break the news to many of you out there in the commercial sector, but this pay freeze is pointless and unfair. The truth is that the Federal government is too big and many Federal jobs need to be cut back or phased out altogether. Targeted cutting of Federal salaries in positions where pay scales exceed commercial pay rates and phasing out unneeded Federal positions would provide much more meaningful and fair spending cuts. The truth is that many Federal jobs pay less than commercial rates. For example, my son-in-law recently began working for a private company doing exactly what he was doing in his government job and is now making twice as much. Across-the-board pay freezes and cuts are unfair to those who work for less in the Federal sector and inhibit the ability of agencies to hire qualified people in key areas. If we want to cut spending, we need to do it in a smart way that targets areas and positions within the government that really need to be cut rather than implementing mindless cuts like this that do not solve the real problems associated with our over-sized government.

    4. ELC, PA says:

      You omitted the necessary prerequisite: abolish and outlaw government-employee unions.

    5. JohnMc says:

      "Hire More Private Contractors. Many jobs performed by federal employees are not inherently governmental tasks and can be performed by private-sector workers."

      Interesting insight but it posses the wrong outcome. If a private contractor is doing the work for government then just maybe the government should not be in the effort at all. I speak specifically of those contractors that have 5-6 year contracts to do certain levels of work that have parallels in the private sector and not related to DoD level requirements. I would also lump the payouts made to so many NGO's on both the left and the right for 'studies'. If the work is critical, someone other than government will pick up the tab.

      It might be even more fruitful to trim the function more so than the pay scales.

    6. PD Quig, San Jose CA says:

      Any public sector service that is also available in the private sector should be subject to the requirement of turning a profit for the government (Post Office, Amtrak, CPB, etc.). Their continued existence should depend solely upon profitability.

      All other deparments that are on the border line (e.g. Dept. of Education, TSA) or government only (e.g., Dept. of Agriculture), should be outsourced to the private sector to the degree possible. All remaining components would be subject to strict performance metrics. All should employ zero-based budgeting and clearly-defined, MEASUREABLE performance metrics. Two metrics would be required for all departments:

      1. ROI

      2. Comparable private sector cost comparison

      Metrics beyond the above two should be reviewed for validity by revolving volunteer panels of profitable private sector business owners. Any metrics deemed to be unmeasurable, irrelevant to the product or service provided, or otherwise invalid would result in an automatic 50% reduction in budget. Once established, missing performance objectives would result in a 10% budget reduction in the subsequent year.

      Time to hold feet to the fire in the public sector.

    7. Scotty in NY says:

      Here's an idea- fire all the people in the department of education and divide its entire budget equally by student payed by voucher to the school they attend. phase it down over 10 years to 0.

      short term gain – more money for education with zero overhead, thus defeating the standard caterwall of cutting education.

      long term gain – no federal involvment in education.

    8. Joe Glandorf Boston says:

      Imagine the economic impact of a policy that said public sector salaries and benefits would be reduced one percent a year UNTIL private sector pay and employment recovered.

      Not only would this policy (finally) align the interests of public sector employees with taxpayers and private sector employees but it would also create a "natural" test of the theory that public sector employees are "underpaid". By simultaneously monitoring the voluntary movement of public workers BACK TO the private sector (by field and pay grade) a realistic determination of relative pay could be very accurately discovered both generally and with respect to specific occupation.

      No one could say that an annual 1% pay reduction is burdensome to public employees given the damage private sector workers have sustained recently. Isn't it also possible that business and investment attitudes towards future growth prospects would turn positively, relatively quickly, given this new alignment and promise of fiscal sobriety?

      It could be that the economy would get back on track with little actual public sector pay decreases with sufficiently robust gains in "animal spirits". A small change, yes. But one that actually provides leadership towards a healthy outcome for every employee, public and private sector.

    9. Kenny says:

      get all federal employees out of unions…put it back to the way it was…before FDR changed it!!

    10. garrettc, Louisvilll says:

      How about doing what every other business must do when facing such drastic imbalance between costs and profits. Cut staff; 25% not sparing upper management (unlike what the large corporations do) would be a healthy start. Using contract workers for low level requirements saves buckets in benefits and allows the contracting company the freedom to dismiss non-performers. Reduce duplication across departments.

    11. Brian, Chesapeake VA says:

      "Reduce Federal Benefits. Congress should reduce the generosity of its benefits to market rates. Paid leave should be reduced to comparable levels at private corporations. Congress should re-examine the utility of the existing defined-benefit plans and consider moving federal workers to a fully portable and funded 401(k)-style system instead. "

      They already did. Sometime in the early 90s, at the latest, they changed the rules so that new hires go into the FERS system (a 401K) instead of the CSRS system.

      Also, I'm skeptical about the Heritage Foundation study for two reasons. First, once you adjust for cost of living differences, I make roughly the same as my classmates in engineering school. Second, if we're really overpaid where I work, we wouldn't have such an incredibly high turnover rate. We've been trying to hire enough people to make up for a 5 year hiring freeze, and the preceeding layoffs, and also prepare for the fact that over half our workforce will be retiring in the next 5-8 years. But for every ten we hire, at least five will leave for the private sector within two years.

      Granted, the DoD is a little different world than things like the Dept of Education. Where I work at least, we actually have to produce a product, and show that we're competitive with the private shipyards on cost and quality. But when you have a Department that doesn't seem to produce anything other than more regulations, it's hard to justify any of the money being spent there.

    12. Guaman says:

      Some of what Heritage recommends is based on outsider perception – contracting out, particularly for professional services involves overhead of contract administration, so it is not an even swap. A&E contracts don't go to the low responsible bidder – it's qualifications based, so those with the biggest pile of credentials get the work, then negotiate the price.

      Pay for performance is an interesting concept. Performance in government is often linked to how much public moneys are expended. Those federal employees who are aggressive in interpretation of the rules to give more money out, grants, entitlements, contracts, etc., are deemed high performers and will get the higher compensation. The oversight entities, OIGs, do not aggressively pursue improper payments, questionable adherence to procurement policies, and even failure to follow basic eligibility criteria. When dealing with money drawn from the common pool of government funds, the federal employee is rewarded for being a creative advocate for his or her clientele, those receiving funds (grant recipients, those getting entitlements, contractors, even state and local governments) will not normally complain. This is the fundamental flaw of government – it is the tragedy of the commons. Performance based pay will bring some unintended consequences; further reduction in executive branch adherence to law.

      Some actual real live elimination of entitlements, grants, loans, assistance to governments and individuals is called for. The pigs will squeal, but that is what it will take. All else treatment of the symptom and not the disease.

      As a federal employee – freeze my salary, should it become beneficial for me to be employed by someone else, I'll go there. I'm an engineer though – many federal employees are useless outside of government, regulators and money dispensers especially.

    13. Craig, North Carolin says:

      Performance based pay is a worthwhile goal. But how to you measure services? In my job as a weather forecaster, the probabilities are often poorly understood by customers. A 20% chance of rain, for example is not 0%, though many customers perceive it as such. Tailoring meteorological thresholds for a variety of weapon delivery platforms is a demanding task. The value of my service to my customers can and does save them hundreds of thousands of dollars. And it saves lives. I make well below 6 figures. It's easy to stereotype all federal workers. It's not fair, but it's easy.

    14. mbecker908, Phoenix says:

      Kenny — it wasn't FDR that brought in government employee unions, he was dead set against them. It was JFK.

    15. Bobbie says:

      As the overpay of federal employees receiving it are as worthless as a socialized government in a free country, lets see how sincere they are to work for the people by cutting their pay to government standard minimum wage and then FREEZE. Besides pompous conceit, there is absolutely no reason for government not to sacrifice to avoid putting the sacrifice on the people they serve. CUT GOVERNMENTAL OVERREACH.

    16. 98ZJUSMC says:

      You Federal Employees won't get much sympathy from me. I've worked with them for years. The words "overcompensated" and "slacker" jump, immediately, to mind.

      So do: Double Dipper, Sick-Bay Commando and Lazy Union Loser.

      Suck it up and retire at 52 with your golden parachutes. While you still can. We will be changing this……soon.

    17. GS, GA says:

      Unions, Unions, Unions!! Who are the unions protecting their workers from? Themselves? Public sector workers get paid by our tax dollars, then give to unions in the form of dues and then turn around and use our money against us. This HAS to stop at all levels, Fed, Sate and Local.

    18. Shoey, Urbana, IL. says:

      changing around pay formulas and other tinkering-at-the-edges solutions will not change anything, whole departments and agencies must be zeroed out, and the public service unions must be broken.

    19. Tom Cuddihy says:

      These are all great ideas, that, with exception of eliminating restrictions on firing, have already been tried and rejected by congress in the last 10 years. The Democratic congress' first major act on compensation when it came into power in 2008 with expanded majorities was to eliminate NSPS, the pay band system that had already replaced about 1/4 of GS system.

      Federal managers already have the ability to fire people for poor performance. Yes it is a management nightmare but the reality is that the main impediment to using it is lazy managers, who have no incentive to be effEctive managers.

      Contracting out has been tried–Rember Reinventing Government? The effect was that all the effective, competent GSs became highly-paid contractors while the incompetent boobs who couldn't find their way out of a wet paper bag were left to manage the contracts, poorly.

      Result: higher cost service, increased turnover, and loss of institutional knowledge, added to a higher idiot factor on the GS side.

      Sorry, these are all fancy ideas that don't get at the root of the problem– the lack of incentive to ever cut budgets or agencies. Until that changes, there will be no real cost reductions on the payroll side.

    20. DonC, Gloucester VA says:

      Funny, when Glenn Beck started ranting about Public Employee's salaries, I decided it was time to retire and get 'grandfathered' in to the system.

      Since I was only 56 at the time, I decided that I could work part-time as a consultant doing the same type work that I did for the Department of Defense (Computational Operations Research / Reliability Simulation).

      My hourly rate for consulting is within 50 cents of the rate I received while working as a Federal Employee. Now, there are some differences. I now work around 16-20 hours per week. I do not receive 13 paid holidays, 20 paid vacation days and 13 paid sick days per year. But, on the plus side, I do 90% of the work from home, whenever in the day (or night) that I feel like doing it.

      Also, I do not receive retirement or health benefits from the consulting, but, I am already retired, and I receive health benefits from my retirement. I also do not contribute 9% of my salary to my retirement plan, but it may make some of you feel better to know I am paying Social Security, which I will never qualify to receive anything from.

      Was I an overpaid Federal Employee? Seems a pretty close match to me.

    21. jc says:

      So is there going to be an unintended consequence? Tagging the pay to the commercial sector meaning a substantial pay raise for those people complaining that they get substantially less than the commercial sector?

    22. Mary Reed says:

      Public sector union hyper-inflated pensions & medical benefits need to be dealt with. If these contractual obligations can't be changed then tax them at a rate that would equalize public union benefits with the private sector. I'd call it the AMT 2 – Alternative Moochers Tax!

    23. Pingback: Shorter Obama: ‘In This False Dilemma, America Must Make a Manichean Choice Between My Indisputably Wise Policies and My Tendentious Straw-Man Caricature of Republican Policies’ : The Other McCain

    24. Federal Farmer says:

      Heritage's grudging concession that some government employees may be underpaid compared to their private sector counterparts is laughable; while a lot of government employees, especially the unionized ones, are certainly overpaid, a lot of the lawyers at the Department of Justice are very underpaid. Anyone in the Solicitor General's Office could wander into a job that paid them at least 3-4 times what they make there, while the decent litigators could readily double or triple their income by going to the private sector. The more the public demonizes federal employees, the more likely the good ones will leave to the much greener pastures of private practice, leaving to the less capable folks who stay behind such tasks as defending the country from terrorists and prosecuting federal crimes.

      While the salary freeze is not the end of the world, a more granular approach would probably better serve everybody in the long run. Identify the people who are overpaid and stop giving them raises for awhile. Identify the bloated components (which may well be most of them) and subject them to a hiring freeze to bring down their headcounts. But make sure that the places in government where we need top people are places that get top people, and that we don't do things to hurt recruitment or retention. While the federal government has many problems and has been inflated beyond all reason, there are critical functions that the federal government must continue to fulfill, and we must not hinder the government's abilities to meet those obligations.

    25. Pashley1411 says:

      Federal pay is simply the face of government bloat. Our elected leaders have voted in more government than it can afford. Massive slashing of programs and benefits is inevitable, or, the converse, massive depreciation of the currency for those programs and benefits are worth less is in order.

      Sad that there are no adults in government.

    26. Mike says:

      The pay freeze is fine symbolism, but the real goals — as others here have noted — should be reducing the number of federal employees, drastically slowing the rate of hiring, and totally eliminating public sector unions. We also should remember there are some things the federal government SHOULD be doing and it does need to pay good salaries for these important jobs to attract quality people. I'm all for cutting the salaries of people at the, education dept, epa, etc, but really we should be reducing slots or even eliminating these agencies for the real savings. I'm much more hesitant to say we should be cutting/freezing pay for FBI agents infiltrating terrorist rings, undercover intelligence operatives overseas, nuclear scientists, and the like. What about the undercover agent who just caught this would-be bomber in Washington state — does that guy deserve a pay cut? And will lower pay hurt in attracting people who do the tough and dangerous work that requires actual talent? (as opposed to the legions of administrative people sitting in DC)

      Perhaps if every federal employee didn't get the same raise, regardless of how useless the position or lazy the person, this would not be such an issue. My point is, not everyone in the federal government is a useless clock puncher and we should find a way to pay those people while getting rid of the rest. I suppose it all goes back to the proper role of government: If Washington was doing only those things it legitimately should be doing, the federal workforce wouldn't be an issue!

    27. Boghie, San Diego says:

      Conn Carroll,

      "Congress should re-examine the utility of the existing defined-benefit plans and consider moving federal workers to a fully portable and funded 401(k)-style system instead."

      Do you know what the Federal retirement system is? It is called the 'Thrift Savings Plan" and it is a 401(k). Additionally, the match is about equal to that I have seen in private industry. There is a small pension element to retirement that comes into play after 20+ years and upon retirement age. Retirement age is identical for that of the private sector. The "Defined Benefit Plan" was abolished in 1984 – no employee hired after that date has a defined benefit plan as a substantial portion of their retirement. 80%+ of the retirement 'benefit' is a result of 401(k) investments.

      Also, Federal employees pay 1/2 of their health benefits while employed and all of their health insurance upon retirement.

    28. Bob says:

      DOD tried a "performance-based pay" model under Donald Rumsfeld. It didn't work because the unions (who didn't want it at all) and their supporters added so many rules and qualifiers to its implementation and execution that it became unmanageable. IOW, a self-fulfilling prophecy, doomed to be unworkable from the start. That's how reform is really implemented in DC!

      The basic idea was sound; it pretty much addressed a widely acknowledged number of failings with the current civil service system. But the career bureaucrats undermined it from the get-go.

    29. Phil Davis, Florida says:

      So who is working for who? Let me see…the government (employee) works for "We The People" (employer) and the employee makes a ton more than the employer. What's wrong with this picture? We must have been asleep at the switch!

      When the government grows too big, the people fear it. When the government is reined in the government fears the people. I'll take the latter please. Glad the tide is turning for "We The People", otherwise we will continue eating spam while the government will continue to eat steak!

      Now I wonder what happened to Obama's plans to cut the size of government during the 2008 election cycle? Oh yea, only after he spent us into oblivion, paid off his buddies through stimulus, and grew the size of government even more! He did not lie when he made the statement of cutting the size of government; he just left that part out til after. I wonder what is going to happen when States, which took Federal tax money, to pay their State employees runs out? I know, raise State income taxes and add even more taxes to goods and services.

      This Fed and State governments need to be locked up in a drunk tank to dry out. What are these people smoking? They should not be left unattended, not for a second!

    30. The Elephant's says:

      I just read that in the small print of the President's statement, bonuses and step-increases are excluded. MOre of the usual smoke and mirrors?

    31. Jeff in Illinois says:

      The problem with 'pay for performance' is that it isn't universally applicable. When the work involved has specific definitions, subject to mathematical measure, it can sometimes work. But in general, in both public and private work, we know from experience that 'pay for performance' turns into ''the boss son-in-law gets the pay'. Or something close to that. It happens almost like clockwork, because human nature is what it is.

      We do indeed have a spending problem, and a general freeze on Federal pay including step increases, bonuses, everything, could be a part of the solution, IF it was done as part of an across-the-board freeze on all Federal spending, INCLUDING entitlements. Otherwise, it's a waste of time.

    32. Jack says:

      I am a conservative and a federal worker. I agree with many of the criticisms of the civil service, but like some above have said, you can't really paint the whole civil service with a broad brush. I am an engineer for the DoD, and I came to the government from the private sector. I can tell you for a fact that my pay is not out of line with what my private sector buddies get. Ditto the benefits, for the most part.

      I would imagine that much of the pay disparity Heritage and others point to are found in places like HUD, Dept. of Education, etc., where bureaucrats with minimal real-world skills perform useless functions that only waste taxpayer money. I can handle a pay freeze for now because I know the government is in dire financial straits and I feel blessed just to have a steady job in this economy, but I don't like having the entire civil service being lumped together in these discussions.

      Criticisms that are true:

      - While vacation time isn't out of whack for many federal employees, once you put in ten years, you get four weeks per year, which is high.

      - Unused sick leave can be rolled over year to year, so longtime employees can end up with months of leave in the bank. In some areas (not in mine), I have heard of employees calling in "sick" for the last six months of their careers. Also, sick leave may be used for any number of things such as care of loved ones (e.g., sick kid) or bereavement.

      - Retirement at 55 has got to end. Most civil servants retire and then go to work for a contractor, thus "double-dipping" for ten years or so.

      That said, there are some criticisms that are not true (at least for those of us with useful skills and/or degrees). For instance, I actually had better insurance in the private sector.

      The biggest problem I see with the way things work (besides the unions — don't even get me started), is that there is no incentive to make "value-added" judgments. Where I work, the solution to every problem is to hire more people. We never reassess what we're doing and eliminate tasks which don't add value — we just keep doing that stuff and then hire new people to do the added work. In my seven years on the job, my division has doubled in size, but I can't really tell you that we are producing more value for the taxpayer.

      One more thing: Contractors are NOT the solution, at least as they are currently used. The problem is that contractors are not able to legally speak for the government. So while contract engineers can do useful grunt work, government employees have to be in on every meeting and teleconference to "speak for the government." This means you have absurd situations where the contractor who knows all there is to know about a particular problem has to have a government guy hold his hand at meetings and make all the decisions, even though the government guy really doesn't fully understand the issues and is only going on what the contractor told him. The contractors are miserable because they can't make decisions and are shunted aside, and the government engineers hate being put on the spot all the time.

    33. Marcus says:

      The Brookings Institution has studied federal employment. Their reporting showed that in the year 2000 the Federal workforce was at it's lowest since 1960. It's grown then, what with two wars and who knows how many overpaid, under performing contractors on board. Everyone knows how well privatizing the military's back office (and some front office) ops. has gone – abysmally. Some functions are naturally performed by government, others by the private sector. Government will often run at a loss; the purpose is the provision of services the private sector neither wants or cares to. Then there are quasi-governmental corporations like public utilities that feature a blend of both roles. And to those who say Federal workers are paid too much, perhaps the real question is why the private sector has been allowed to be decimated by unchecked corporate greed the last 35 or so years. Sure, there's been technological change but that fails to explain stagnant wages, declining benefits, job losses, stock market excesses, CEO pay – all of which play into the mix. Oh, and the last time I checked the AMA, AICPA, BAR Associations, Professional Engineering Groups, etc. all operate like unions. Just remember, the Fed (and state and local) governments are the largest purchasers of private sector goods and services. The private sector says they loath government regulations, taxes, etc. but will take government money, the longer the contract the better, all day long.

    34. George Colgrove, VA says:

      I love Sherk recommendations. This is a good start. I would only add that the evaluation of federal jobs should be done by competing private organizations – not a single one and not another federal organization.

      I also think in order to control dead weight and to limit the potential of corruption by federal employees who have been office for decades; we should put a limited time in service for a federal employee to 10 years. In addition, put an overall limit to public (local, state and federal) service to 15 years for federal employees.

      We need a mix of private sector thinking in government and by limiting a federal worker's career to 33% to 50% to public service with the rest dedicated to the private sector.

      This makes federal work more like a corps program which allows an excellent entry point for young people just out of college and allows for people who has put in several years in the private sector to join the upper ranks to ensure the federal government operates as a corporation who wishes to profit.

      Once implemented, we can add a two-year extension for all federal workers with 10 or more years in service and 1 year extension for people with 9 years of service in the federal government. I would also add that a federal employee could have a single short-term extension for transition of 6 months.

      However, before any pay reduction or federal work modifications are made to federal workers, congress shall make a meaningful cut to their own salaries and they must cap what their individual office receives from taxpayers.

    35. Pragmatic in Texas says:

      I agree with most of the proposals. But regarding Contracting jobs out to the private sector – What's the difference between that and Socialism? Isn't that "spreading the wealth"? All that would do is put a government employee out of work and on unemployment through no fault of their own. I guess what it comes down to is the law of the jungle – You can take anything you want, but you better not take it from me.

      And I am a mid grade government employee, earning PERHAPS 5-7% more than my civilian counterpart in my field in salary.

    36. Elaine S - Georgia says:

      So, the fed is going to suspend COLA raises for a few years. My 89 year old Mom has not received a cost of living increase on her social security in the past 2 years and this is her only source of income. She only receives slightly over five hundred per month. I don't see how she manages after rent and utilities but she does. She receives food stamps of a little over 100 per month; this is after they cut almost 100 a month this year. If it wasn't for various ones bring her food, she couldn't make it. Now her Medicare has also taken cuts and will take even more in the coming year. To all those in Congress and the White House who say that the Health Care plan is going to be great, ask them if they will be willing to give up their nice "cover everything" plan and put themself and their family on this great plan that they want to pass. And let's ask also if they would be willing to live on social security and medicare as part of their retirement plan instead of receiving payments for the rest of their lives once they leave Congress. The feds do not work for our good. They work for their own good and it is rare that you can find an honest Congressman, unfortunately.

    37. Jay, beltway says:

      I am a federal employee (non union).

      I am highly educated and could be making more $ in the private sector, but the work would be more stressful and my hours less flexible.

      My personal observation is that the pay is not the problem for most federal employees. I am underpaid for my work, as are many who actually produce work for the public.

      The org chart is the problem – we have a much higher ratio of supervisors, managers, assistant managers, program managers, etc etc to workers than the private sector. Part of the issue is that every time congress gives a fed agency a legislative mandate to do something, the agency creates a new department or office with a new staff, computers et al to do it. Another issue is the managers have seniority and cannot be fired, they must get a bigger paycheck than skilled workers who actually produce by virtue of being managers and seniority.

      So yes, I am a little peeved that I will not get a 1-2% COLA this year. Why? My insurance premiums are going up 11% next year in order to comply with obamacare, and a 2% raise would have about covered that.

    38. Old Patriot, Colorad says:

      I'm retired from the Air Force, get a VA disability check, and social security from the government. I'm willing to take a 2.5% pay CUT, and no pay increases until the government can get its act together, IF EVERYONE ELSE WHO GETS A FEDERAL CHECK DOES THE SAME. I don't mean just other retired military, or others that get VA disability, or anyone who receives social security, but EVERYONE that gets federal funds. That includes the President, all the Cabinet heads and their underlings, ALL the people that work for "civil service", all retired presidents, all current and retired congresscritters, active duty military, Medicare, Medicaid recipients, and everyone on welfare. No one should be singled out, and no one should be exempt. I'm sure that will save far more than a paltry $5 or $6 Billion. It would also put pressure on Congress to clean up the mess they've made of government if they want a pay raise – OR to be re-elected.

    39. Virginia Ernsberger, says:

      Glad they want to freeze federal employees.

      Also need to cut congressional, president and judicial salaries by 20% and they need to be put on social security and same health care as the rest of the country.

      Need to roll back spending to 2006 levels.

      Abolish ear marks.

    40. Chuck Andreas, La Lu says:

      To be fair everyone in Government should be required to have their pay froze or cut. The President, Congress and Representatives pay should be cut. Whatever Healthcare and Retirement Plan they come up with, including Social Security, all Legislators should be required to join the same as We The People. In plain words, Congress will pass no laws that they themselves will not abide by. COLA should be allowed for all Social Security recipients because they are having a hard time making it as it is. Finally Stop All Foreign Aid Immediately until further notice. Take care of the Untied States first and foremost.

    41. Tommy in Tucson says:

      2 points. Wages should be governed by "supply and demand". If you can't get enough QUALIFIED people to fill the position, increase pay/benefits. Last time I checked, people are standing in line to get federal government jobs, even in good times. (I work for a municipality, the "feds" do much better than we do and have less work)

      The federal government is a HUGE organization! One blanket policy will not work for all positions. There must be some flexibility built into a compensation system.

    42. Thomas F Taylor, Geo says:

      Payments to physicians for care of Medicare patients are considered "discretionary" and therefore are subject to a pool of funding and, mostly they will receive "what is left over"..Reimbursement for Primary care physicians for care of these same people has not increased for the past seven (7) years; with a fight to just stay at a level of no increase in reimbursement. With this in mind you must remember that the "cost of doing business" is directly related to the 25% increase in meeting all of the rules and regulations placed on who, when, how, etc – all of which must to met in order to get any reimbursement (meeting all of these requirements cost and require hiring more people !!! . Why not apply the same reimbursement formula to those people who work for any level of government?

    43. Chuck O'Reilly says:

      The pay freeze for federal employees is a waste of time. The feds need to radically CUT expenses, not freeze them.

      All federal positions created since 2005 should be eliminated. All pay rates for federal employees should be returned to the rates of 2000. Everyone knows that federal employees are paid higher than their civilian counterparts.

    44. Joan Hamblin says:

      I absolutely support your comments re. federal pay. Government employees should never earn more than their private industry/business counterparts.

    45. Peter T says:

      It always amazes me that there is some general formula that shows this vast difference in pay. I challenge this brain trust, and I use the term lightly to go category by category. I am certain that Federal attorneys are paid significantly lower wages than their private sector counter parts. Same for researchers, plumbers, electricians and so on. It’s a fact that if we did a survey comparing disciplines the results would be quite different. Being involved with labor relations, I can point to all my private sector counterparts that make twice what I do, I am a Federal employee and proud of it. Contrary to popular belief, I work hard for my pay. My wife can attest to the number of hours that I have work "off the Clock" without compensation. Working on vacations and weekends.

      If we are to take this sort of hit then I expect that the Republicans abandon their overzealous defense of the Bush tax breaks, which by the way would balance the budget in it of itself, in a few years. THINK people….

    46. Joe Mosley says:

      Have read the article and the comments. Some people are very informed other's are not. Yes this country is in dire need and lots needs to be done to reduce the debt. Will ourcongressmen and senators do it. Nope not when over half are millionaires they care nothing for you or your families. Does the Heritage Foundation care about you nope not one bit. The people that work for these foundations make a nice penny folks and good bennies. I have seen all sides and there are problems with all aspics. First going to contractor workforce is laughable. Let me give you an example and this is just on the low end of the ladder. You the taxpayer pay for their desk and computer, you pay for the utilities, you pay for the upkeep of the equipment and supplies, ohhhh lets not forget the 20-30% overhead and the worst most draw time and a half $75 an hour. See it daily roughly about between $130- 150 an hour yep lets hire more. On the other hand some contractors make no more than the average guy or ga in industry. Do I have anything good to ay about civil servants yes and no Management makes excellent money and there are wayyyyyyyyy to many lots that sit and do nothing get rid of them. The ones that are in similar situations to most people in industry are just hanging on. The problem is their are way to many riding the system. First look see and read find out where the problems are and make adjustments. You see the same problems in industry. Answer me this run a company into the ground a slap on the wrist and a multi-million dollar payout??? Everything has to change from the top down until it happens things here will never change. Pay for performance, efficiency, and innovation, Go to school andl learn skills that are portable or be forced to learn Chinese soon if we all don't change . Don't want this country to advance keep reading all this political garbage that floats around out of these think tanks it will rot your brain. Yep I am a peon but I know I can make it I have the will to. Off my soap box and have fun picking my comments apart but you all know it is true. :-) Ohhh and if you don't want to add it to your web comments Heritage I made acopy and will dump it all over the web.

    47. Surendra Sharma says:

      The fact that federal pay is 20-40% is higher than private sector is totally wrong. I read the article by Heritage Foundation Senior Labor Analyst James Sherk you are referring to. It does not have any analysis or facts in it just a statement not based on fact.

      Comparison should be made based on parity of qualifications and responsibilities. I live in silicon valley and have many friends who work in the high tech industry. I have a Ph.D. in Physics from MIT and have about 30 years prof experience, still make 50% less than professional in silicon valley half on my age.

      And no I am not complaining. I opted for federal service, I like what I do.

      So, before you start writing an article about any thing please do some honest research and then make you suggestions to the public at large. Otherwise you doing a disservice to the community.

    48. Ivergene Petty, Visa says:

      We need to be able to vote as the People of the United States on an ammendment to end the law that our Congressmen and Senators can vote themselves raises. Their salaries are way out of line with the work that they do. If it was hard work. then they couldn't be in office way past the age that the rest of us has to retire at. This one act would save our nation millions or maybe even billions each year.

      Also stop the graft that is going on among our elected officials. That use to be something that only occured in other countries, not in America.

    49. Rodney Johnson, wich says:

      American workers are not stupid. If even half what you say here were true, there would be people lining up to work for the government in good times as well as bad. That is simply not the case. Workers dont dream of getting a government job so they can become rich. Anyone who thinks contracting out governement jobs saves the tax payer money is a fool. Explain all this in your next set of lies about governement jobs and workers.

    50. Pingback: Public-Sector Jobs And The Recession « FRISK A LIBERAL

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